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Full text of "arabic"

J\r^ic-£hdo,cotr\ 



Course Code: TAS001A 



reading and 

Writing the 
Arabic Script 



Saqib Hussain 



© Saqib Hussain 2009. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, stored or 
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, including photocopying, 
recording, Internet, or any storage or retrieval system without prior written permission from the 
copyright holder. 



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Contents 

Introduction 2 

1 The Alphabet 3 

A The Primary Letters 3 

B Pronunciation 4 

C Supplementary Letters 5 

2 Writing 7 

3 The Vowels and the Sukun 10 

A The Short Vowels and the Sukun 10 

B Long Vowels 10 

C Diphthongs 11 

D Shaddah / Tashdld 12 

E Tanwln / Nunation 12 

F Pausing when Speaking or Reading Aloud 12 

4 The Two Hamzahs 14 

A The Permanent Hamzah 14 

B The Connecting Hamzah 16 

5 Elision 17 

A The Sun and Moon Letters 17 

Appendix A 20 



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Introduction 

There are five free video lectures which accompany this text. They can be downloaded at 
www.arabic-studio.com. 

This course has been designed to teach the complete beginner how to read and write the Arabic 
script. It assumes no prior knowledge of Arabic. 

The course covers most of the rules a beginner needs to correctly read and pronounce Arabic. 
However, a few rules can only be fully understood and applied after learning some grammar, and 
these will be covered in the course Basic Arabic Grammar (TAS004A). 

In Appendix A at the end of this text, an alphabet cut-out has been provided, which the student can 
use to make alphabet cards. These can be used to practice letter recognition and for writing 
exercises, as explained in the accompanying video lectures. 



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1 The Alphabet 



A The Primary Letters 



There are twenty-eight letters in the Arabic alphabet, shown in the table below. For each letter, the 
table also gives the transliteration of its name, and an example English word which begins with the 
sound made by that letter. Some letters don't have a corresponding English sound; the correct 
pronunciation for these is given in §1B. 



Letter 


Transliteration of the letter's 
name 


English word which begins 
with the sound of this letter 


! 


'alif 


(see§lC) 


<—-> 


ba" 


book 


o 


ta 


table 


o 


tha' 


thin 


c 


jim 


jack 


c 


ha" 


- 


t 


kha' 


- 


i 


dal 


dolly 


i 


dhal 


that 


J 


ra' 


- 


j 


zay 


zebra 


w 


sin 


sun 


J 1 


shin 


shatter 


u^ 


sad 


- 


J 


dad 


- 



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J* 
J* 

t_ 

J 

J 
J 



J 
15 



ta' 



za 



? ayn 
ghayn 

fSL 

qaf 
kaf 
lam 
mlm 
nun 
ha' 
waw 
ya 



fat 



king 
light 
mad 
night 
hello 
wing 
yellow 



B Pronunciation 

Most Arabic letters have an English equivalent, as you will have noticed from the previous section. 
A few, however, don't have corresponding English sounds. The correct way to pronounce these is as 
follows: 

•r- This is similar to the English h, except that you must constrict the throat when 

exhaling, as is sometimes heard in the exclamation: 'aha!' 



c 



This sound is sometimes heard in Scottish English; it is like the ch in the word 'loch'. 

Imagine isolating a single 'tap' which the tongue makes when roll your r's - that's the 
sound you need for this letter. It is often heard in Scottish English for the letter r, such 
as in the word 'free'. 



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^p ]? Ji> These are deeper, or emphatic, versions of ^ , o and i respectively. In each 
case, the tongue is pressed harder against the mouth, although its position (i.e. the 
point of contact with the mouth) doesn't change. At the same time, the back of the 
tongue is raised, which constricts the pharynx. For this reason, these letters are 
sometimes said to be pharyngealized. 

jp This is a difficult sound to get right. It is made by using the left or right side of the 
tongue with the premolar and molar teeth. It is again a deep sound, and as a first 
approximation may be considered the emphatic version of j . Along with the above 
three letters, J= is also said to be pharyngealized for the same reasons. 

c- This is not quite a glottal stop (see §1C), but very close. Its sound is made by the 

throat constricting, much as it does for £■ , except even more tensely, allowing less 
air to escape. 

p This is similar to the gurgling sound in English. 

(3 This is roughly similar to the English k, but is pronounced from the part of the tongue 

closest to the throat (i.e. the uvula). 



C Supplementary Letters 

As well as the above twenty-eight letters, there are three supplementary letters. These aren't usually 
included in the alphabet, but are used frequently nonetheless. 

Hamzah (a yJ>) 

The hamzah is written «. , and is represented in transliteration by a single inverted apostrophe: ' . It 
represents a glottal stop. Although there isn't an equivalent letter for this sound in the English 
alphabet, English speakers still make this sound all the time: 

• At the beginning of words: when pronouncing a word which begins with a vowel, such as 
'in', 'on' and 'at'. 



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• In the middle and end of words: in some English dialects, such as Cockney, it replaces the t 
in the middle and end of some words and phrases, such as 'fitness', 'what if, and 'shut up'. 

If the hamzah occurs at the start of a word, it is always written 'sitting' on top of or beneath an I , 
like this: \ and | (see §4). For this reason, it is sometimes said that I is for 'apple'. In fact, it is 
the hamzah sitting on top of the I which gives us the glottal stop at the beginning of 'apple'. 

More details about the hamzah are given in Section §4. 

T& Marbutah (^Vr* »lf) 

This is written: I , i.e. « with two dots above, and it may be thought of as a mixture of « and 
cj . It only ever occurs at the end of a word. When speaking or reading aloud, if we stop at a word 
which ends in I , such as at the end of a sentence, or to draw breath, then we pronounce it as a « . 
Otherwise, we pronounce it as a o . 

More details about the rules for speaking and reading aloud are given in §3F. 

Alif Maqsurah (i'y^ji* LaJl) 

This is written: <s ■ It is written like a <s , but without two dots beneath it. It also only occurs at 

the end of a word, and is used to form long vowels (see §3B). 



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2 Writing 



Arabic is written from right to left. Most of the letters in an Arabic word have to be joined together, 
like joined-up handwriting in English. There are however six letters which can't be joined on to any 
other letter which comes after them: 



To write Arabic, we need to know what each letter looks like in its initial form (i.e. when there is a 
letter attached after it only), its medial form (i.e. when there is a letter on both sides of it), and its 
final form (i.e. when there is a letter attached before it only). In the table below, you can see the 
electronic or printed forms of the letters. The hand- written forms of a few of the letters is slightly 
different from the printed forms, and is covered in the video lectures. 



Isolated Form 


Final Form 

(A letter attached before it only) 


Medial Form 

(Letters attached on both sides) 


Initial Form 

(A letter attached after it only) 


1 


L 


Cannot attach 


a letter after it. 


o 


L_L 


■+ 


_j 


CJ 




J- 


_j 


O 


2* 


-*■ 


_j 


<L 


s- 


■*■ 


■* 


c 


c- 


— 


- 


t 


£■ 


-*- 


- 


i 


± 


Cannot attach 


a letter after it. 


i 


i 


Cannot attach 


a letter after it. 


J 


> 


Cannot attach 


a letter after it. 


j 


> 


Cannot attach 


a letter after it. 



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J* 

J* 
t_ 

i 









J. 
Ji 



(3 



O 



i3 



cil 



_£_ 



J 



J. 



_L 



J 



r- 



u- 



J 



C5" 



Cannot attach a letter after it. 



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In addition, there are some combinations of letters which join together in special ways. It is 
recommended that the student just pick these combinations up as he or she progresses. The only one 
to bear in mind at this stage is a J followed by an I : 



Isolated Form 



Final Form 

(A letter attached before it only) 



Medial Form 

(Letters attached on both sides) 



Initial Form 

(A letter attached after it only) 



I 



%- 



Cannot attach a letter after it. 



www.arabic-studio.com 

3 The Vowels and the Sukun 

A The Short Vowels and the Sukun 

In English, we use the five vowels a, e, i, o and u after the consonants to show what sound each 
consonant should make (e.g. 'ma', 'me', 'mo'). 

In Arabic, we use diacritical marks in place of vowels. These are signs made above and below the 
letters. The three short Arabic vowels are shown in the table below: 



Vowel 


Example 


Transliteration 


English word which 
begins with this sound 


dammah (W»): — 




fu 


foot 


fathah (^»): — 


j 


ra 


run 


kasrah (l'J>S): — 


i_j 


bi 


bit 



Letters in English may be unvowelled, i.e. have no vowel sound immediately after them, such as the 
n, the s and the c in the word 'fantastic'. In Arabic, we show this using a diacritical mark called a 
called a sukun {bf^) above the unvowelled letter: — . 



Example 


Transliteration 


J> 


qui 


> 


hal 


°U? 


min 



B Long Vowels 

A long vowel is just a lengthened vowel sound. In English, we usually form long vowels by using a 
double-vowel, e.g. 'fool' and 'weep'. Long vowels in Arabic are formed in the following manner: 

• j — (i.e. any letter which has a dammah, followed by a j with a sukun) 



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and 



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(i.e. any letter which has a fathah, followed by an I or an <s with a 



sukun) 



• ° LS — (i.e. any letter which has a kasrah, followed by a is with a sukun) 

As such, the letters j , I and <s are said to 'correspond' with the vowels dammah, fathah and 
kasrah respectively. 

Consider the examples in the table below: 



Long Vowel 


Example 


Transliteration 


English word which 
begins with this sound 


f 


J> 


shu 


shoot 


t- 


U 


ha 


heart 


W- 


U 


fi 


feet 



In a few words, we use the sign - above a letter to indicate a long fathah vowel, in place of I — , 

, | , _ * °, , _ 

such as above the (» in j~^j gracious (instead of JU^j ). 

When a hamzah is followed by an I , we write it as I , such as in the word dTj Quran. This sign 
above the I is called a maddah (&>). 

C Diphthongs 

Diphthongs are combinations of two vowels in a single syllable, as in the words 'coin', and 'loud'. In 
Arabic, there are two diphthongs, which are formed in the following manner: 



Diphthong 


Example 


Transliteration 


English word which 
begins with this sound 


'j- 


'J 


law 


lonely 


'J- 


s 

<S3 


way 


wait 



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D Shaddah / Tashdid 



Many vowelled letters in Arabic have a — sign with their vowels. This is called a shaddah («^), or 
tashdid (jJjUii). It indicates a double-letter, the first of which has a sukun, and the second has 
whatever vowel appears with the shaddah. 

Consider the examples in the table below. Note that where we have a kasrah, it is written beneath 
the shaddah (rather than beneath the letter, as is usually the case). 



Example 


What the shaddah indicates 


Transliteration 


2Jjbr 




jadduka 


^ 


j& 


? allama 


' ** 

fi 


s A 

Jp 


quttila 



E Tanwin / Nunation 

The ends of some Arabic words take two vowel markers (e.g. a double-kasrah: ? ). This is known 
as tanwin Cy„y5), or nunation. It indicates a final n sound after the vowel. 

In the examples below, note the way in which the dammah tanwin is written: - . Also, note that 
when a word ends with a fathah tanwin, we add a final I to the word 1 , which can usually just be 
ignored (but see the next section). 



Example 


Transliteration 


& 


9 ilmw« 


dU 


? ilman 


& 


"■ilium 



F Pausing when Speaking or Reading Aloud 

When speaking Arabic or reading it out loud, we usually don't pronounce the last short vowel or 



1 This is further discussed in the course Basic Arabic Grammar - Part A (TAS004A). 



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tanwln of the word we stop at. For example, we would read aloud the sentence JC^>- °j* ^-ii- He 
sat on a donkey, as jll?- °js- " tJ J^ . In other words, we ignore the tanwln on the final letter j , and 
treat it as if it had a sukun. 

The exception to this is when the final word ends in I — , i.e. a fathah tanwln. In this case we read 
it with the long fathah sound: a. For example, we would read the sentence LTiif cJu I sold a book, 

as Ij'iif ' 



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4 The Two Hamzahs 

There are two types of hamzahs in Arabic; the permanent hamzah (^Jalil »jli) and the connecting 
hamzah (J^jJ' 5 >>-*)- 

A The Permanent Hamzah 

The permanent hamzah can be written in a number of ways: 

• It can 'sit' above the I , j or <s (i.e. \ , j and Is - note that we remove the two 
dots from the iS when the hamzah is sitting on it); 

• It can sit beneath the I (i.e. J ); 

• It can sit 'on the line' - in other words neither above nor beneath another letter (i.e. «. ). 

The correct way to write the hamzah in any given word will depend on its position within that word, 
and the vowels before it and on it. 

The Beginning of a Word 

At the beginning of a word, the hamzah sits above the I if it takes a dammah or a fathah, and 

below the I if it takes a kasrah: 



Word 


Transliteration 


f 1 


'ummra 


c f 


'akhtffl 


k 


"in 



The End of Word 

At the end of a word, the hamzah sits on the letter which corresponds (see §3B) to the short vowel 
immediately before it. If there is a sukun or a long vowel immediately before the hamzah, then it 
sits on the line. 



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Word 


Transliteration 




jaru'a 


J> 


yaqra'u 


^ 


muli x a 


s-yx- 


juz'ww 


tie 


bina'ww 



The Middle of a Word 

In the middle of a word, we need to consider the (i) the long or short vowel immediately before the 

hamzah, and (ii) the vowel on the hamzah itself. We then apply the following rules in the following 

order: 

1 . If either (i) or (ii) is a kasrah, then the hamzah sits on a <s , otherwise go to Rule 2 below; 

2. If either (i) or (ii) is a dammah, then the hamzah sits on a j , otherwise go to Rule 3 below; 

3. If either (i) or (ii) is a fathah, then the hamzah sits on an I , unless it occurs after an i , in 
which case go to Rule 3. a below: 

3. a The hamzah sits on the line. 

One must apply the above rules in the correct order. So, for example, if Rule 1 applies, then we 
don't need to worry about Rules 2 and 3. 

There are a few exceptions to the above rules, which the student should learn as he or she 
progresses. 



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Rule 


Word 


Transliteration 


1 


J^ 


su'ila 


2 




ba'usa 


3 


P 


sha'ama 


3. a 


oJ^L^JL) 


yatasa'aluna 



B The Connecting Hamzah 

This is only ever used at the start of a few words (and therefore always sits above or below an I ). 
For example, the word tl»| name starts with a connecting hamzah. 

We only pronounce the connecting hamzah when the word in which it occurs is at the start of a 
sentence (or a pronouncement). To show this, we don't usually write the hamzah - we just write the 
vowel that it takes above or below the I , e.g. jJJL-l. . 

You should note that whenever a word appears to begin with I , it is in fact beginning with a 
connecting hamzah, which is invisibly sitting above or below the I . 

When the word which starts with a connecting hamzah occurs in the middle of a sentence (or 
pronouncement, in spoken Arabic), the hamzah is totally ignored. To indicate this, we can use the 
symbol - above the I , e.g. jll-i . More often, we just show the I by itself: j^-i . So we would 
read the sentence UoL' 11*1 LiJJ We know the name of her city, as L*j1' jil* LiyJ , as if the I 
weren't there. 



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www.arabic-studio.com 

5 Elision 

Some combinations of consonants are difficult to say, so we leave out some of the sounds. For 
example, when we say the phrase 'next day', we usually leave out the final t of the first word, as if it 
were 'nex day'. This is called elision: the t is elided into the d because it is too difficult to pronounce 
both of them together. 

The same principle applies in Arabic, particularly in the Arabic of the Qur'an and hadith literature. 
Elision can occur between two letters if the first has a sukun, and the second is vowelled. If it is 
difficult to pronounce the two letters together, then the first is elided into the second. To show this, 
the first letter loses its diacritical mark (it becomes 'silent', like the t in the above example, and so is 
ignored) and second takes a shaddah. 

Consider the examples below, which are all taken from the Qufan. You can see the vowels on each 
phrase before and after elision. 



Letters which are elided 


Before Elision 


After Elision 


o elides into j 


rf- j o? 


r*Jitf 


j elides into J 






i elides into o 


-*0 -"-■ 




i elides into -t 


jvilili ij 


jvilik i\ 


All letters elide into themselves 


^iri;^j 


°^°£^ 



The complete rules for how letters elide are studied as part of the subject called tajwid, and will not 
be dealt with here. 

A The Sun and Moon Letters 

The word for 'the' in Arabic is Ji . When we want say 'the boy', for example, we take the word for 
boy, jJj , and attach Jl to the beginning: aJ^il . 



However, when J I is attached to words beginning with certain letters, known as the Sun Letters, 
we have to elide the J into the sun letter with which the word begins. For the rest of the letters in 

17 



the alphabet we don't elide the J ; these are called the Moon Letters. 



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Moon Letters 


Example 


Transliteration 


$■ 


fUJ^/l 


al-an^am 


i_j 




al-baqarah 


C 


J> 0^ 


al-jathiyah 


c 


>*Ji 


al-hijr 


t 


jj^LkJl 


al-khasiran 


t 


c~> ^3s_jvjl 


al-^ankabut 


I 


J 0^ 


al-ghashiyah 


<J 




al-furqan 


3 


^.^211 


al-qasas 


6 


oi^ioi 


al-kahf 


f 


^0 0^ 


al-ma'idah 





ajl^J 1 


al-humazah 


J 


^ Ol* 


al-waqi^ah 


iS 


'J$ 


al-yaqln 




Sun Letters 


Example 


Transliteration 


o 




at-tawbah 


o 


Liilii 


ath-thaqib 


j 




ad-dukhan 


i 


oL'jiJji 


adh-dhariyat 



18 



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<j" 



•&-"J\ ar-ra ? d 

yjJi az-zumar 

iOaiJJ! as-sajdah 

y-^\ ash-shu''ara , 






^p 0UU2JI as-saffat 

j> J**-^^ ad-duha 

i» j>W at-tur 

Jj> OjlJUaJl az-zalimuna 
J v-f^ 1 al-lahab 

o *U-3l an-nisa" 

Note that Jl begins with a connecting hamzah. So if the Jl is attached to a sun letter and occurs 
in the middle of a sentence, it means we ignore both the hamzah (as it is a connecting hamzah), and 
the J , (as it is elided into the sun letter), e.g. ay^Ji cJ>J J&- he sat under the tree. 



19 



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i 


Appendix A 


L 




c 


^ 


o 




\ 


J 




i 


c 


c 


c^ 


j* 


c* 


J* 


J 


ij 




t 


J> 


i 


d 


r 


J 


^J 


<J 


d 


* 




J 


d 



L* 



20